No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball started its 2019-20 season Friday night with a 76-43 exhibition win over Fayetteville State.
The Terps had a few positive and negative moments, but here are our biggest takeaways from the first unofficial win of the year.
1. The Terps were in their zone.
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon had said a few times prior to the start of the season that his team would play more zone.
During Friday night’s exhibition, those words came to fruition. A few times, including after the under-12 and under-8 minute timeouts, the Terps would orchestrate their defense into a stretch 3-2 zone.
Maryland guards, including Serrel Smith Jr., Anthony Cowan Jr. and Eric Ayala, positioned on the wings of the zone, while Maryland’s front court players were at the bottom of the zone. However, Turgeon threw a little wrinkle into his zone, placing lengthy players such as Hakim Hart and Aaron Wiggins at the top of the key.
“It gives us the advantage to make the zone more wider,” Ayala said. “We practice a lot in the zone, so it’s just giving us another defensive option for teams to...throw them off. We’ll probably slow teams down then go back to man.”
The Terps showcased their zone in the first half but did did not return to the defensive strategy in the second half against the Broncos.
2. Free throws didn't come free
With Fayetteville picking up a total 25 personal fouls, Maryland had plenty of chances to get to the line. But the Terps were unable to execute from the charity stripe, making only 16-of-30 attempts. Jalen Smith and Cowan generated the most opportunities but finished a combined 9-of-16 from the line.
Turgeon said after the game that he estimates his team has taken about 24,000 free throws since the start of the school year, adding that it has converted about 86 percent of those and made around 82 percent in a private scrimmage against Pittsburgh.
“[Turgeon] said we’re going to shoot more free throws,” Wiggins said. “He tells us we need to get at least 250 free throws up on our own outside of practice. So that’s something we’re all doing, and tonight it didn’t seem to show.”
3. The Terps took care of the ball
Maryland ended the night with six turnovers — three in each half. A season ago, the Terps only had one game with less than six turnovers, averaging 12.9 per contest.
Sloppy play has plagued Turgeon’s teams in recent years, averaging 13.7 per game in 2017-18 and 12.7 the season before that.
As both we and experts have mentioned before, the key to Maryland going living up to its preseason expectations will be making smart decisions and limiting turnovers. Of course, Friday was only an exhibition against a Division II squad and a long season awaits against much better competition, but nonetheless it was a good sign of improvement.
“It’s really good to see. You know, hopefully it’s not a season low as we go on,” Turgeon said. “That’s a good sign for us, because if we can be really good defensively, if we can take care of the ball, we’re going to make shots, we’re going to make free throws as the year goes on.”
4. Donta Scott impressed in his first collegiate action
Maryland’s freshman class is expected to make a big impact this season, as Donta Scott, Makhi Mitchell and Chol Marial are expected to be mainstays in the Terps’ rotation throughout the season.
Four freshman — Marial, the fifth, won’t be cleared until Nov. 25 at the earliest — saw game action on Friday night, but none stood out more than Scott.
Scott, a 6’7 forward from Philadelphia finished tied for third on the team with 10 points, making four of his six field goal attempts while going 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. He also racked up five rebounds and a pair of assists, showcasing a strong all-around effort in his first collegiate action.
Turgeon deployed Scott at both small forward and power forward against the Broncos, testing the tough, 225-lbs tweener at two different positions to see how he’d fit in. That’s not something Turgeon wants to do often, as it takes away from Scott’s ability to play loose.
“Dante is tough and you can’t break that kid. He’s really tough,” Turgeon said. “Right now he’s a little confused because he’s playing two positions — he’s playing the four and the three. ... So he’s thinking more than he’s just playing. When he’s just playing he’s really good.”